The Top 5 Things to Know about Your College Acceptance Letters
Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to college! That’s great news. And it means you’ve probably received one or more acceptance letters – which show your college costs and financial aid. If you want to go to a good college you can also afford, this is important stuff. So we’ve put together the Top Five things to know about your college acceptance letters.
Tip #1: The “cost of attendance” is an average for all students at that college.
Number One – The “cost of attendance” on your form is just an average for all students at that college. Your costs will be different. Why? Your transportation, books, clothing, personal expenses – they’re all unique to you. And if you want a little help on calculating them, just use this link.
Tip #2: Separate your loans from your scholarships and grants.
Now for Number Two: Separate your loans from your scholarships and grants – because they’re very different. On many acceptance letters, scholarships, grants and loans are all grouped together under one heading: Financial Aid. But while scholarships and grants don’t have to be paid back, every dollar you receive in loans has to be repaid – PLUS INTEREST. So here’s some advice: If it doesn’t say scholarship or grant, it’s probably a loan. And if you’re not sure, contact the college and find out.
Tip #3: Your loan will likely cost more than the amount shown.
That brings us to caution Number Three – Your loan will likely cost more than the amount shown on the page. For example, let’s say you’re offered an $8,000 loan. Sounds great, right? – Until you realize that at 3% interest, paid back over 15 years, it’s going to cost you almost 10,000 dollars! The message: Do the math – know how much your loans may cost over time. There’s a link to an online calculator for that below, too.
Tip #4. Check if your bottom line requires an additional loan.
Now for #4. Check if your bottom line requires an additional loan. Look at the total amount at the bottom of the page. Sometimes it’s called the “Net Cost” or “Net Price.” And what it is – is the amount you and your family still need to pay the college – even with the loans listed above it. So will that money come out of savings? Or will you need to get another loan to pay for that amount? – Ooof.
Tip #5. Your financial aid statement only covers one year.
Now for Number Five. Your financial aid statement only covers one year. But you’re going to be in college for four. Even more if you take longer to graduate. So whatever bottom line you see -- multiply it by four. And don’t forget – tuition and interest rates can go up. Yikes! This four-year factor also matters with your scholarships and grants. Like… are they for all four years? Or just one? And what kind of GPA will you need to keep them?
So there you have it. Our Top Five things to keep in mind about your acceptance letters. And they all add up to this: Make sure you know how much each college that accepted you will cost, and choose the one that fits your dreams – and your wallet. You’ll be making a decision about your future that you and your family can feel good about right now.